Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Look, I realize it is “sparkling wine”, but, seriously, what kind of title is “Sparkling wine and cheese sticks”? I’m sticking with the title as it stands. Ok? Ok.

Ok!

So, Tuesday = celebration.

The morning was a super-productive meeting in which I found out that this idea I had way, way back when I started and have been working towards for the past few months is going to work!

Have to tell you that I was a bit worries – it uses a function that no one has used yet and even the person in charge of it wasn’t sure if it would work.

It works.

And we got exactly the amount of work done that we needed to do – the project is totally on track, we will meet our deadline and it will work.

I’m so happy.

Then.

I had another meeting.

For most of the meeting we talked about cupcakes and other baked goods, for we were totally super-productive during the final 5 minutes. And sometimes, you know, it is only the final 5 that counts…

I got back to hot yoga on Monday evening and it was great.

I mean, I still kind of hate it, but it was great. Challenging, hard, impossible, too hot. And there were moments that I really felt like walking out of the class and that hot, hot room.

But.

Well, the instructor said it was good to see me.

And it was good to be back.

me: It is good to be back.

him: it is good to see you.were you away on vacation?

me: nope. i’ve been making cupcakes!

him: (laughing) are you one of those cupcake girls?

me: nope. but, i’m becoming one…

him: (laughs)

And, yes, I did an hour on the treadmill tonight, went grocery shopping and made my lunch for the next two days…5-spice chicken with Szechuan peanut sauce and carrot sticks on the side.

Yep, some Tuesdays you can’t lose…

“The Iron Lady” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd, screenplay by Abi Morgan.

After seeing the last two movies, I was worries that perhaps I wasn’t being critical enough of the films that I was seeing, I loved everything…

Can’t stand this film.

The cast is quite amazing, Meryl Streep does it again, crafting an interesting character, inhabiting the body of someone else and becoming them before our very eyes. In this case, the cast is far, far better than the film.

Not sure exactly the point of a film that tells an interesting story with a debatable historical figure in retrospect. Streep does what only she is capable of – taking a not very likable character and finding something redeemable about them. She makes Thatcher sympathetic and human, when in fact, most of us don’t want to confront a week Maggie…

It is too easy.

Maybe the film makers were trying to make a point about her being human, about her vulnerability about how no matter who we are or the things we’ve done, we age, we are mortal and we will be weak.

But I’m not sure that this a point that needed to be made. I’m not sure that if this way the point, that this film was the one to make it.

The story telling was sloppy, and the imagery unclear. There was a lot of confusion about when something was a memory and when it was a hallucination.  When dealing with a character who is suffering from dementia it is important to be clear about these things and the imagery that one uses.

Confusing too, was the amount of shoe imagery. I like a shoe-shot as much as anyone, but the amount of scenes that showed shoes or featured shoes as some kind of important prop. Was there a metaphor here that I somehow missed? ‘cuz usually I’m quite good with metaphor and motifs so if anyone can give me a clue…

The big question is ‘Does Meryl Streep deserve an Oscar for her performance in this film?”

Yeah, Meryl Streep is one of the most talented actors around. Yeah, every role she is in, she delivers in spades. But, for this role, she needed a better film. She is so good in this role that she seems like she is a completely different film.

No, she doesn’t deserve an Oscar for this one. She needs to pick better films for her outstanding talents.

I would take a pass on this if I were you. But, if you do let me know what you think.

 

“Monsieur Lazhar” is directed by Phillipe Falardeau, written by Phillipe Falardeau, adapted from a play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere.

“Monsieur Lazhar” is a French Language film, which I saw with English subtitles.

“Monsieur Lazhar” is nominated for a “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy Award.

So, when I heard the premise for this film and the CBC reviewer talk about good it is, I knew I had to see it.

The premise: an Algerian refugee lies his way into being hired as an elementary school teacher to replace a teacher who committed suicide in her classroom and no other teacher wants to teach the students. As the film unfolds it is revealed that both students and teacher are dealing with great personal losses and struggling with issues of death, guilt and blame.

This is one of those films that I love that are incredibly quiet – no special effects, no interesting gimmicks, the story moves slowly and most of the story is told in awkward conversations, interesting classroom scenes and hard questions.

The talent of the young actors in this film is overwhelming – they play real 11 and 12 year olds, who are struggling not only with the loss of their teacher but also absent parents, personal dynamics and trying to adjust and learn from a new teacher who isn’t entirely comfortable with the culture.

One of the things that was very interesting about this film is that the children are shown as exactly that – they aren’t hypersexualized versions of children, they aren’t smarter than the adults around them, that aren’t wise-cracking and solving things – they are real in their struggles and in their joy of being young especially in the face of tragedy.

The film had a bit of a retro feel to it, completely absent were electronic device, no cell phones, none of the children text each other in class, the class doesn’t even have computers. I can only imagine that this is due, in part, to being adapted from a play.

The film is sad and beautiful. The teacher, Monsieur Lazhar, although dealing with his own personal losses, is ready to confront issues of death and guilt with the students in a respectful and sane manner. I loved that he treats the children as children should be treated – with respect, understanding, love, ready to discipline and guide and ready to treat them as adults when they are needing to be treated like adults, he doesn’t talk down to them, nor does he belittle their feelings or reduce them to things like “ok, lets draw something about that”. He speaks honestly and from the heart and stands by his decisions and has trouble navigating a difficult system of rules and guidelines which all teachers much navigate.

The film unfolds, as do the characters. Every scene either moves the plot or fills in blanks and gives us clues as to what is really happening in the teacher’s life and what the events were leading up to the previous teacher’s suicide.

The movie is sad but gentle too – we understand that grief is something difficult to grapple with, even as adults, and sometimes even after we appear to be “fine” and “over it” there are things that bring it up again, dealing with grief is a life-long process which, I think, maybe never goes away fully, it marks us and stays with us, those losses become part of who we are and change us in ways that we can’t imagine. I don’t mean that we stay sad, only that loss changes us and sometimes the feelings are raised again, filtered through different experiences.

I loved this movie. It was excellent storytelling and sad and beautiful.

I love the quiet unfolding, the revealing of the story, a slower pace that you can fully understand the implications of everything that came before and hints as to what will happen next. It showed a very intriguing slice of life in the arch of these characters.

Mad props need to be given to the young actors who displayed such maturity and talent, they were incredible and believable.

I highly suggest you see this movie if you can, I think you will have a very pleasant experience.

Funnily, I feel like I should mention, here it is described as a “comedy” and you know, there are some truly funny moments, the dialogue is clever and gently teasing at times and provoked many laughs from the audience. But, I wouldn’t classify this as a comedy…you will probably need some tissues, if you are sensitive like me, there are times in this film that you will cry.

But, you will feel better for it.

When I get into work in the mornings, the first conversation that I have is generally with a colleague of mine who works on the switchboard. The building design is kind of odd, and there is this random space that sits beside the staircase and looks out over the reception area. I call this random space “The Eagle’s Nest”.

So, I start every morning with a talk with my friend up in The Eagle’s Nest.

And talking with her is good – she seems to be getting things together, you know. And one of the things that I love about talking with her is that she is always calls me “young” and says she is invigorated by my “youth and energy”. That always makes me smile and laugh a bit ‘cuz, honestly, I don’t think of myself as “young”. Immature? Yes. Young? Nope.

The other things I love about talking with her is that she is getting her stuff together. She teaches me everyone morning that getting your life together is a constant process, something you never stop working on and trying to get together.

And she wears the most interesting colours. Today was all different animal prints. Leopard spots, tiger stripes.

And different people told me how good I looked today – my dress, how sexy I am and one person even used “hot”.

One time, coming back after getting another glass of water, someone left a curiously minty life saver on my chair.

And then, that same person called me up to make sure I found it!

I made him an orgami crane as a thank you – he was thrilled. The paper was blue with daisies. Very nice.

Later, my boss gave me some rockets.

Today, Thursday was made bearable by little things, tiny surprises, fleeting moments of kindness and positiveness.

A good kind of Thursday.

 

 

Cupcakes were something of a big hit at work – my director ended up sharing them around to one and all – including a number of the senior team, who were all pretty complimentary about them. Very happy to know that they were enjoyed by all.

Meeting today and items to follow-up on meant that lunch was very, very late.

Which, every now and then, on Tuesdays, is ok.

I lost one of my chopsticks!

One minute it was there, waiting to be used as my dumplings heated up, the next –

Good-bye chopstick!

For a bit there both of them were missing, then I found one inside the fridge – it fell out of my lunch bag!

Where the other is remains a mystery.

I suspect that it has gone wandering, in search of adventure.

But, if you see it around, please do me a favour and send it home – it is missed by all of us here.

Rest of the days skipped and bubbled along – late lunch made for a very, very short afternoon.

Got back to the gym tonight 1h on the treadmill.

Ok, I know I should have done weights, but c’mon I’m working back up to making it to the gym on a regular basis, ok?

And of course, I didn’t have my normal earphones, so I used the old ones, but the sound isn’t very good, so I had to turn up the sound up higher than I like. I’m trying to be kind to my ears and not like blow them out or anything, so when wearing earphones, I tend to listen on a low volume. I read somewhere that is what you do to avoid damage. I don’t know if it true.

Anyway.

It was good to get there and after I treated myself to a steam (quite imaging me wearing a towel, I thought we already discussed this?) and getting dressed again (quite imaging me without my clothes on!) I noticed something.

The horror, the horror.

A hole in my sock!

Tragedy.

Misery.

Woe.

Like. Whoa.

The is the second pair of socks this winter that have holes in them.

I know what this means.

It is time to go sock shopping!

I’m one of the lucky ones, really.

Some people have a grocery budget. Some people have an entertainment budget. Other people have a car budget.

I’m one of the lucky few that have a sock budget.

And a boot budget. That is a story for another day.

Yeah, you heard me. Ummm, read me. A sock budget.

Hey, when you live in a country that has crazy cold winters, you learn to keep warm and a big part of staying warm is having the right socks. And that means being sock-wise, which requires some investment and planning.

I’m just saying.

So, yes, soon enough I will be braving the shopping centre to seek out new socks. To boldly go where most people have gone before. For socks.

I hope it is worth it.

I wonder if there are sock sales on right now…

Well, Happy New Year, indeed.

Imagine you here with me, sitting, sipping a new kind of cocktail, created in honour of the Year of Dragon: lychee syrup, coconut juice and amber rum over ice. Tastes a bit beachy for this time of year, depending on where you are, I mean, but this evening is warm and positively balmy in TO, bring on the beach, you know?

Air = filled with freshly baked cupcakes, comforting vanilla in the air, hint of butter-cream icing and lychee, warm almond scent underneath. Base note of the 5-spice carrot cupcakes from yesterday still lingers.

And 80s music is on and we are kicking back in the living room.

Today I learned a new word: ataraxia.

Which, honestly, looks like it has too many “a”s but, do I have to tell you how much I like that “x” there?

I like it a lot.

Slept in this morning, the alarm didn’t go off. I didn’t set the alarm! Not sure how I forgot, but there you have it, I did and there I was all sleeping in for half an hour!

No worries though, ok? I have 45min of “extra” time available to me every morning, so even with sleeping in for 30min, I still had 15min of “free time”. And yes, I got to work in plenty of time, still early. There you have it, some people are just wired like that.

Good day at work, seems like everyone was in a good mood all the way around and two of my colleagues ended up in the office as well – which is veryvery unusual, normally I’m the only one on my team, so it was…nice.

Forgot lunch, no worries though, a catering company comes in and we can buy our lunch. I bought my lunch today – tuna salad sandwich and potato leek soup. Which was pretty good, considering that I was going to go out and treat myself.

What really made lunch enjoyable though, this book that I’m currently devouring. Today, this book taught me a new word, but I think I told you? Ataraxia.

After lunch, for the rest of the day, I kept thinking about this word and saying it to myself.

Ataraxia.

My brain turned it over and over, tasting it. I mean, if a brain could be said to “taste” a word…you know what I mean here, don’t you? Well, ok then!

After work, it was time for hot yoga.

Yes! I’m totally ready and able to go and…

Somehow I end up at the grocery store and I’m getting stuff to make more cupcakes!

So, when I get home, I do.

Another recipe for lychee almond cupcakes and the smell…well, I know I mentioned that…

Then you know what?

I felt so good about…well, just about everything.

I called up my bro and offered to bring him some cupcakes.

me: hey! are you guys still up?

my bro: yeah. hey i just saw your picture of the cupcakes, they look good.

me: they are. hey, if you are still up, can i bring some over?

my bro: yeah ok.

my bro: wait, what?

me: i want to come over and bring you some cupcakes.

my bro: that is what i thought you said. but for a moment i thought maybe i was having a stroke. ‘cuz i saw your pic and i thought “i would really like some of those cupcakes”, so when you just said that, i thought maybe i was having a stroke.

me: is it a symptom of having a stroke to think about cupcakes?

my bro: probably not. is this real? you are really bringing cupcakes over to us?

me: what? do you think i would phone you up and offer to bring you cupcakes as a cruel prank? i would never use cupcakes for that sort of evil.

my bro: sure. well, sure if you want to bring us cupcakes, that yeah, come over. i’m going to be really disappointed if i’m having a stroke and you don’t bring cupcakes over.

So, this is actually how conversations in my family go sometimes. I hope that explains some things that you were maybe wondering about me.

Anyway, I did and it was great to see them, my niece was asleep when I got there, but it is all for the best, really, she may have freaked out on the cupcakes if she saw them.

Then it was back home and you know that moment when you open the door and you are hit with the smell of home? And it may smell like wet dog, or air freshener or pasta or curry – tonight I opened the door and yeah…freshly baked cupcakes.

When I lived in Alberta I used to bake bread. A lot. Like a few loaves every week-end for a while there. And sure, this meant that we always had bread around and usually some pretty interesting kinds too, ‘cuz that is the way I roll. But the thing that I liked best. The best thing in the world for me was coming home, opening up the door and the smell of freshly baked bread would pour out the door.

Heaven.

So, I guess you are wondering: What does “ataraxia” mean?

On the week-end I read that column “Free-Will Astrology” –

Yes, I should give you a link, but keep in mind, drinking rum with coconut water and lychee juice here! You may not want me to go linking all over the place, you know what I’m saying?

Anyway, my horrorscope, sorry, horoscope, suggested that I entertain some more of my ideas this week, not share them, not act on them, just…entertain them and let myself be entertained.

Secret time: I already do! I play and entertain and allow my ideas to amuse the heck out of me.

Why?

‘cuz it is fun.

On the way over to see my bro and deliver those cupcakes, here is what I thought: that I would start a cupcake delivery service. That I could get bike couriers in TO to deliver them, they are already doing the routes and going places anyway, why not take people cupcakes? I also thought that I could set up by Bixi bike kiosks. Again, not linking here, too relaxed…I also thought that I should start a choir, we could sing madrical music (note to WordPress: “madrical” is a word…gesh, I seriously need to join their dictionary team…oops, actually I’m spelling it wrong, sorry WordPress – no hard feelings, right?) ‘cuz I like all kinds of music and yeah, I love all kinds of music, to listen too and even to play and sing, but my fav, my all-time most pleasurable music to sing is madrigals (spelled correctly this time!).

And yeah, I haven’t sung in years, so I need to learn how again.

But, I can do that.

So those are the ideas that are currently entertaining and amusing me.

Ataraxia – tranquility of the soul.

If that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is…

My heart started growing again today.

 

One of the things I love most about Chinese New Year, also known as “Lunar New Year”, is that it offers another chance to start the year over again. And celebrate with tasty food.

It is time for me to say good-bye to Year of the Rabbit.

This year presented me with some devastating losses and brilliant gains.

I lost someone I considered my best friend, twice, and my grandmother. I let go of a job that I loved, with colleagues who became some of my dearest and yes, best friends. I zeroed my savings and  went into debt. I had horrible hair days. Another best friend moved halfway across the country.

I fulfilled some of my lifelong dreams. I walked on the Great Wall of China, I knelt in front of Buddha, in many temples. I fulfilled a promise. I met so many new people, many of whom are now some of my best friends. I learned how to use my camera! I made peace with my ex. I had incredible hair days. My best friend who moved got into a relationship and I got a new job with people I love. I started baking again!

I read some incredible books. Heard excellent music. Saw some great movies.

I cried. I laughed. And throughout it, I tried to write it all for you.

Year of the Rabbit was a year of my life. Losses and gains. Tears and laughter. Always a mix, right? A balance. Some of each for the human heart to grow.

My conversations shift and change, people come and go.

Good-bye Year of the Rabbit.

Thank you.

“The Artist” is directed by Michel Hazanavicius, screenwriter Michel Hazanavicius.

I think this is the best movie of 2012. And when I say “2012”, I mean, this year, it was released in 2011 in Belgium, so there you go.

In this era of film, where nothing new is happening, where films are only made if they can franchise, where films rely more on gimmicks and technology instead of storytelling, this film surprises, delights, amazes and moves the human heart.

Filmed in black and white and almost totally MOS (“With Out Sound” – “Mit Out Sound” as they used to say in German in those days in Hollywood. Apparently) the soundtrack and music and silence is as much a character in the film as the actors.

The Artist tracks the rise of “talkies”and how it affects and effects two very different actors – one a silent screen star and the other a rising actor who find stardom with the advent of this new technology.

In turns, the film is comic, tragic and wildly romantic. It also had made moments where it reminded me of “Singing in the Rain”, which is a-ok with me as that is one of my favourite films of all time.

It is almost halfway into the film before we hear a human voice of any kind and then, it is a part of the soundtrack, not the actors – the lack of the human voice forces the actors and audience to pay close attention to the body language and facial expressions of the actors. When we do hear a human voice, it is like lighting a candle in the dark, how we miss the human voice!

This movie is great storytelling. We are drawn in and respond to it.

I think this movie rather makes a point about use of technology and the effects of some of the artists who are in the modality where a great technological shift takes place. Movies are one of my favourite art forms and yes, that includes silent movies and black and whites – they are so different than the movies of today, bigger, bolder and more subtle at the same time, I miss a film taking time to slow down and get beautiful shots and meaningful imagery.

This film lacks flashy CGI, incredible special effects and colour. But, you know, you won’t miss those things are at all. You will be happy with the clever shots, the beautiful symbolism and the unabashed romanticism and optimism. If you see only one movie in the theatre this year, make this the one. And I know, I know, Batman and Avengers are both coming up in the summer, but seriously treat yourself to something beautiful and classy, a real time out at the movies.

I think this is a movie is a “Must See!”

Enjoy!

 

Woke up this morning at about 5am. Confusing was slow to find me,but did, bothering me with questions – whose bed is this? What city am I in? Do I have a job or do I need to look for one when I get up? Is there someone else in another room? Should someone be beside me in bed?

Strangely, I couldn’t remember any of it.

I yawned, stretched, turned my pillow over to he cool side and went back to sleep.

The alarm went off at 6am and all the answers came back  – this is my bed, I’m in TO, I have a job that I love and there is no one else in another room or in my bed.

Funny how these things fell away and then came back when I needed them.

And! The cupcakes were a hit. So, an all round great kind of day. I even got back the gym!

 

Not sure if I ever told you.

In the depths of winter, when I lived in Alberta, sometimes a Chinook would blow in and, overnight, the weather would do a drastic turn-around – in Calgary minus -20 to +20 is not unheard of! Where I lived, the change was not quite so dramatic, but pretty good, we would get up to around +10 or even +15.

You could always tell when a Chinook was coming too – over the mountains the clouds would make this funny shape, known as a “Chinook Arch”, which was the pressure exerting itself on the clouds. It was very interesting.

It was also an odd bit of hell for those who get pressure headaches.

What I learned about myself – I get pressure headaches.

I can’t really explain them, I know they are induced by air pressure. I know that those migraine meds that I carry around with me don’t really work. My eyes don’t focus properly and even though it hurts, I feel silly just crawling into bed.

When I moved away from Alberta, from the Chinooks, these headaches became less frequent, in Ontario we don’t get these kinds of pressure systems, with the temperature doing such ridiculous jumps and leaps.

Until yesterday.

The pressure changed as I was walking over to see a colleague I often chat with – I paled and the pain settled right between my eyes. I opened my mouth to speak, but my colleague got there before me: You have a headache don’t you.

me: Yes, it just started right now. Not because of you, but I think there was a change in air pressure.

my colleague: Yep, everything is going to melt, you look awful.

me: I feel kind of awful, so that makes sense.

I carefully wandered away to find some cold water to drink, which, although it doesn’t really help, tastes pretty good in any case.

So, suffice to say, feeling like that, I decided not to go to my hot yoga class.

I know, I know, boo on me.

But, I didn’t really want to do anything else either – not ready for bed, not willing to waste time watching TV shows that I rarely see anyway and not well enough to carry on any kind of coherent conversation.

So I baked cupcakes!

48 of them.

24 Chocolate Blood Orange.

24 Chocolate Coconut.

Then I took them into work today, divided them in half and told people to “Please eat them! I have a headache and can’t stand chocolate right now!”

They did a pretty job too.

I still have the headache.

I didn’t go do my weight machines tonight.

So, I baked cupcakes!

48 cupcakes.

24 Chocolate and Blood Orange (they were on sale, I didn’t have a chance).

24 Ginger.

I’m taking them into work in the morning and telling people “Our colleague is leaving, have some cupcakes!”

Look, the way I figure – if you are going to blow off the gym, for whatever reason, you may as well do something productive that maybe even brings some people some happiness and joy – I can tell you that half of today’s cupcakes made the day of some of my colleagues, they were really happy for the treat.

I also figure that if I can bake cupcakes when I have a headache like this, I’m doing pretty good.

This is what I call “taking a bad headache and making it better”.